Well, it is finally here! The end of the school year and for many, graduation time! For most families, it is a key time to either make some very serious life decisions or to realize that those decisions which you previously made are going to actually happen.
Some are packing and getting ready to say their good-byes as their children head off to college and into their independence. Some are panicking and realizing that their children are now going to be home with them all summer long. This means that they need fed lunch, they’ll need to be kept busy, and they’ll be included in all of your scheduling!
For some, summer is just that time of the year when it gets hot and not much else changes.
Whatever your scenario, God has a plan and a purpose for every life that He creates. All of us are on a journey in life. All of us are in desperate need of the Holy Spirit’s guidance, strength, and wisdom to make our journey in life a successful one. Although much of our journey in life is forged by the decisions that we make, there are also often outside circumstances that force us down paths that we did not plan nor did we ever want to be.
The awesome thing about God is that He is able to work all things together for good. He is able to bring life from death and beauty from ashes. So long as we keep our eyes fixed on Him and faithfully follow Him, our journey is sure to end well. There may be pain and heartache along life’s journey, but Jesus is our healer who makes all things new!
In Acts 18, we get a glimpse into such a time in a few people’s life journeys. As Paul was on his journey following Jesus, he found himself in a town called Corinth. At the same time, a husband and wife named Aquila and Priscilla also found themselves in Corinth because they had just been forced out of their home in Italy because they were Jews. Their life journeys were about to cross paths.
I’m sure that Aquila and Priscilla weren’t exactly thrilled about the persecution that they were enduring. Their government had just turned them into refugees seeking out a new home all because of their faith. It would seem cold-hearted and downright rude to say that it was God’s will for that to happen. Whether or not it was, God certainly used that painful event in their life to take them on an awesome adventure with Him.
This couple as well as Paul had something in common, they were both tentmakers by trade. Little did either of them realize that they were also about to become great friends and a powerful ministry team. Until Silas and Timothy joined Paul, he worked bi-vocationally as a tentmaker through the week with his new friends and preached in the synagogues on the Sabbath day. He tried and tried to reason with the Jews to lead them to Jesus, but he wasn’t being very successful at it.
The Jews weren’t very welcoming of the gospel and it reached a point where Paul eventually became so frustrated, that he left the synagogue and went next door. He decided to leave the Jews behind in their stubbornness because they just weren’t getting it and to begin reaching out to the Gentiles. In that house which Paul went to, both the home’s owner as well as the synagogue leader and their entire families put their faith in Jesus.
Jesus came to Paul in a dream and encouraged him to stay there and not to keep quiet because there were many there who had already put their faith in Him. Paul stayed there for a year and a half planting a church as he taught and preached God’s word. He wrote several letters to that church afterword and we turn this morning to one of those letters. Paul gave that church this word of encouragement that Jesus is giving to each of us this morning.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14
13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.
Now this church had quite the list of issues that Paul dealt with in this letter. As we travel along God’s path for each of our lives, we can gain insight and wisdom from their mistakes so that we do not repeat them. As we read these simple actions at the end of this letter, it helps to take a look back at the contents to which they apply to in order to keep everything in context. These simple actions will help us along our journey.
Be on your guard against division (chapter 1,6)
Stand firm in the faith for unity
Be courageous and strong in bringing people together
We call this the ministry of reconciliation. Where division exists, we try to help others to come together in unity by at least helping them to understand each other. While those caught up in division are usually quick to speak, we can be the agents that help them to be slow to speak and instead be quick to listen to try and understand others.
Be on your guard against pride (chapter 1-2)
Stand firm in the faith for humility
Be courageous and strong in asking Jesus to show us our own failures and work on them
Pride comes from a root of us thinking that we are better than we truly are. The quickest way that any person was humbled throughout the word of God was simply to enter the presence of God. There, we instantly realize how short we fall from God’s glory and how much we still are in need of a savior, no matter how far we have grown and matured in our faith. In humility, we ought to encourage others in their journey and not think that we’re any better than anyone at all. We ought to instead cry out to the Lord as David did:
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Be on your guard against immaturity (chapter 3)
Stand firm in the faith for growth
Be courageous and strong in always learning
All of us have room to grow in our faith journey. However, growth in our faith doesn’t just accidentally happen. It only happens as our faith is stretched and tested and as we intentionally dive deeper into God’s word and learn how to best apply it to our lives. There is something that we can learn from everyone and we are better as we come together.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Be on your guard against positions (chapter 3)
Stand firm in the faith for service
Be courageous and strong in making the most of every opportunity
There are many people in churches who are simply there so that their own needs can be met. They are there for a position and if they can’t have one, they move onto somewhere else where they can have it. They want money or followers or for someone to stroke their ego.
Jesus gave us a different perspective on positions when He taught that the greatest in the Kingdom of God was the one who served everyone and He lived out that very example. He taught us to meet the needs of others and then spent His life doing exactly that.
Be on your guard against low-quality work (chapter 3-4)
Stand firm in the faith for giving God your best
Be courageous and strong to serve Jesus through whatever you do
Each one of us is a part of the body of Christ and we are all building something together. The quality of our work will be put to the test when we stand before Jesus and we will be rewarded for what stands that test. Whatever task you put your hand to each day, do it wholeheartedly with this reality in mind that you are doing it for Jesus. Do everything with excellence. Give God your best and not your leftovers. As we faithfully take care of what God calls us to, He will faithfully take care of us.
Be on your guard against sexual immorality (chapter 5-7)
Stand firm in the faith for purity
Be courageous and strong in living a godly life
Although this subject is nothing new, it is obvious that our culture is darkening in this area. God created sex and He created it to be so awesome that it is one of the few things that He limited to be experienced within a lifetime commitment to someone. The world tries to treat it like nothing different than a can of soda. It’s cheap and can be shared with anyone anytime anyway. Although it is becoming more and more difficult, we can live within this reality:
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Be on your guard against being a stumbling block and misusing our freedom and rights (chapter 8-10)
Stand firm in the faith for saving others
Be courageous and strong in considering how your words and actions affect others
This can be perhaps the most challenging thing to do. It’s not that we want to walk on eggshells and be a people pleaser, but we also can’t go around like a bull in a China shop offending everyone with no consideration or respect for them at all. Paul said that he intentionally chose to become all things to all people so that some might be saved.
The heart and intent here is to be considerate of others and mindful of where they are at in life. We don’t want anyone to miss out on eternal life and I’m sure that none of us here want to be that person that caused someone to miss out because we were their stumbling block. We want to be ones who usher them to Jesus, not ones who stick our foot out to trip them and distract them while they were on their way to Him.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Be on your guard against idolatry (chapter 10)
Stand firm in the faith for doing everything to the glory of God
Be courageous and strong in putting God first in everything
Though not too many in our community are making little figures that they worship as Gods, our community, even including our churches, are full of idol worship. God defined an idol when He gave the ten commandments of anything that is valued higher or equal to Him. He is to be first and foremost in our lives and everything else secondary. Anything that we choose to be more important than Him is an idol and they come in all shapes and sizes, even things that have the appearance of goodness.
Be on your guard against abuse of communion (chapter 11)
Stand firm in the faith for togetherness
Be courageous and strong in being around people that you normally would not hang out with
When the church in Corinth came together for their communion dinner, some would get drunk and others would go hungry. Communion, which symbolizes what binds us together was causing further division among their church. As a result, many had become weak and ill out of God’s discipline for their attitudes. Paul urged them to all eat together in unity. Instead of having private suppers and humiliate those who have nothing, to join together and stop despising others in the church.
Be on your guard against ignorance and misuse of the gifts of the Spirit (chapter 12-14)
Stand firm in the faith for using your gifts in unity with others
Be courageous and strong in serving the needs of others wherever we go
Each and every one of us have received spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit. The intent of us receiving those gifts is so that we would use them to serve the needs of others. The intent is so that when all of the gifts are active, the church becomes whole and complete representing Jesus well. The communities around us experience the God who gave His all for them firsthand.
Be on your guard against false doctrine (chapter 15)
Stand firm in the faith for the hope of the resurrection
Be courageous and strong in pursuing truth
There is a grim reality in the world today. Not everyone who claims to be led by Jesus even has a relationship with Him. Not everyone who does miraculous works in His name are even saved. Not everyone who claims to be led by the Spirit are being led by the Holy Spirit. Not every prophetic word has its source in Jesus.
There are many arguable matters when it comes to our faith in Jesus. However, there are some rock solid foundational issues that are black and white and cannot be negotiated. We call these doctrines. It is important for us to know not only what we believe, but also why we believe it and how to defend that position.
One of the doctrines that the church in Corinth was struggling with was whether or not there is a physical resurrection after we die. Paul goes into great detail about how not only will we be physically resurrected from the dead, but how our faith is pointless and our lives wasted if there is no resurrection.
More-so, there were over five hundred eyewitnesses who was with Jesus after He rose from the grave and Paul was one of them. Paul reminds them of the core doctrines that he taught them from the scriptures.
1. Jesus died for our sins
2. Jesus was buried
3. Jesus rose again to life on the third day
It is important for us not to follow any person nor their teachings without question. There are false teachers out there and false prophets. The scriptures spend a great deal of time warning us to be on our guard with them. There are teachings out there and movements that are contradictory to God’s word, even though they are widely accepted.
We have received the Holy Spirit and have the word of God and the ability to think and reason for a purpose. Challenge everything. Go to the word of God and run every teaching through it. If the Spirit doesn’t bear witness with something that we are taught, it’s OK not to fully accept it. Think for yourself, talk to Jesus about your concerns, and follow the convictions that He gives you that agree with His word. Pursue God’s truth above every word of man.
We are encouraged to be on our guard, stand firm in the faith, be strong, and be courageous in every area of life. Finally and absolutely most importantly. We are encouraged to do everything in love. After all, to love God with our everything and to love others is to completely fulfill everything that God expects of us and the entirety of His law. Love is the most important thing that we can possess and the most important thing that we can do along life’s journey.
So wherever life’s journey takes you, remember to be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be strong, be courageous, and do everything in love. With the Holy Spirit as your guide, as your strength, and as your friend, we can learn to enjoy the adventure of life’s journey no matter where it takes us knowing that nothing is too hard for our great God!